Photo: Richard Valdemar
The teenage thug wore a white oversized T-shirt with "Kanpol" in large blue letters over a symbol of two parallel horizontal lines with three large dots over the parallel lines. He wore oversize khaki shorts with white tennis shoes and socks pulled up to his knees.
Tattooed in large letters on his shaved head was a large "13" and the words "all eyes on me." His neck was decorated on both sides with fancy script letters "Natalie" on the right side and "Isabel" on the left. As he walked past me in the city mall I noted a "Smile now, cry later" tattoo with the smiling and frowning drama masks on the outside of the left arm and praying hands with "rest in peace" on his left arm.
As he passed, I looked for other tell-tale indicators such as a blue bandana or Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap. Some older men of this thug's type might wear an Los Angeles Raiders jersey or have a Raiders Skull tattoo. He was walking with a young female. The raccoon-eyed and black-lipsticked young girl was stuffed into her little sister's halter top and much-too-short shorts. Her eyebrows looked as if they were drawn with a fine-line sharpie. Big ugly tattoos were exposed on her breasts and a "tramp stamp" peeked out from under her shorts. A butterfly and a black rose were tattooed on her ankles.
You guessed right, if you guessed that these two were Latino Sureño gang members. However this mall was not in Southern California; it was in Arizona. It could have been anywhere in the country.
Though "Kanpol" is the Aztec (Nahuatal) word for Sureño (Southerner), these two were both from northwestern Arizona. Though he was not from Los Angeles, the large "13" tattooed on his head signified the 13th letter of the alphabet "M" (pronounced "EME" in Spanish). This letter and the number 13 identify the wearer as a gang member loyal to the California-spawned Mexican Mafia prison gang. Kanpol, Sureno, Southsider and Sur 13 are all terms for Southern California gang members and allies of the Mexican Mafia.
This particular male thug was a gang member of the locally spawned Bullhead City, Ariz., "Southside Boyz" gang. The Southside Boyz write graffiti such as "928" — the telephone area code for Bullhead City and Mohave County. They also write "BHC Boyz" and "Sur 13." Other than the outlaw motorcycle gangs that operate in the area, the Southside Boyz are the most violent gang in and around Bullhead City.
Many years ago, an 18th Street gang member from Los Angeles moved to Bullhead City. This older gang member indoctrinated his own children and other neighborhood kids into the Los Angeles Latino gang lifestyle. When these young men reached middle school age, they were already pre-programmed to be gang members. They called their Bullhead gang the Southside Boyz in honor of the father's 18th Street gang "Sureño" soldier lifestyle and for their pre-programmed admiration of the Mexican Mafia.
Drug use, vandalism and bicycle thefts were the gateway crimes committed by the fledgling gang. By recruiting new members, jump-ins and gang violence would soon help escalate their acts to more serious crimes, including murder.
Look around your jurisdiction. Do you have gangs with names such as "South Side Locos," "Sur 13," or "Kanpol?" Do you see graffiti such as "SSX3," "LA 13," "SoCal 13," or "V-XIII?" Or maybe you just have Florence (F-13), 18th Street (XV3), or Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) active in your area. These are all signs of Sureño gang activity. But maybe this activity did not migrate to your city directly from California.
This non-California-born Sureño gang phenomenon is happening across the United States and has even infected our neighbors in Canada, Central and South America. Many pseudo-Sureños have never even been to Los Angeles or California. Even the illegal immigrants recently coming from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are now sometimes claiming to be "Sureños." These Central and South American pseudo-Sureños have even less understanding than the U.S.-spawned pseudo-Sureños do about what real Sureños are supposed to be. Sometimes they barely know that they are supposed to be at war with their enemies, the "Norteños." They don't understand what the North vs. South rivalry is all about.
When I travel around the country, I sometimes hear from local gang cops in whatever city I'm visiting that the Sureños are not really a big problem. They often describe Norteños and Sureños as "getting along." If this is what you think, either you are seeing these pseudo-Sureños want-to-bes who were recruited locally, or the California Sureños are there in so few numbers that they are forced to associate with their California rivals the Norteños to avoid being victims of your local gangs. When this happens, these mixed gang members will call themselves "Califas," the Calo word for California.
Real hardcore California Southsiders will seek out rivals and quickly mark their territorial turf claims with Sur 13. And your unsophisticated pseudo-Sureños will eventually be schooled by hardcore Sureños and Mexican Mafia prison gang members on Sureño codes of conduct. This is likely to occur when these pseudo-Sureños are eventually arrested and sent to jails and prisons.
That is what happened in Arizona. Bullhead City had experienced some gang crime in recent years but it had been several years since a homicide occurred. On Feb. 7, 2008, gang-banger Jaime Ramos Banuelos was found dead near Silver Creek Road and Bullhead Parkway. The Southside Boyz were the suspected murderers.
Boyz gang members in their early 20s — Adalberto Lua Jr., Santiago Sanchez and Jorge "Wicked" Guerreo — became the primary suspects. Adalberto Lua fled to Mexico where he's believed to be hiding. Santiago Sanchez and Wicked Guerreo were charged in a gang-motivated drive-by shooting of a residence on Feb. 2, 2008, a few days before the murder. Sanchez was convicted and sentenced to 38 years in prison but the jury acquitted Guerreo in November of 2009. Southside Boyz gang violence continued.
On Feb. 24, 2010 more than 100 police from six agencies served a series of search-and-arrest warrants targeting the Southside Boyz gang that had made several attempts to murder Jonathan Louis Gutierrez on orders from the fugitive Adalberto Lua, Jr., who remained on the run in Mexico. It seems that Lua's ex-girlfriend had been involved with Gutierrez while the murder suspect was gone. Most of the Southside Boyz would eventually be arrested and convicted. Even the father from the Los Angeles 18th Street gang would be arrested and convicted for a robbery and sent to prison. The ranks of this pseudo-Sureño gang had been decimated. But it was not over yet.
On Aug. 6, 2010. Bullhead Police responded to a report of vandalism at the River Springs Apartments on Arriba Drive. This location is a usually well-kept large apartment complex that's not a source of gang-related calls. The apartment manager stated that the laundry room had been vandalized during the night. Someone had damaged the apartment's washing machines and had taken the electronic card readers from the washers. They also damaged a vending machine. They signed their work on the east wall of the laundry room. The word "BOYZ" was spray-painted in large black letters.
The surrounding dumpsters had also been vandalized. In thick black marker could be read gang graffiti — "BOYZ," "XV3 ST," "X8 ST," "18 ST," "LOS ANGELES," "MAFIA GANG," and most disturbing "F**K TASK FORCE WE RUN THIZ" and "FUK VILES." The gang graffiti writer was referring to the Bullhead Gang Task Force GIITEM (which I am a part of), and the Bullhead City gang cop on that task force was Det. Jeff Viles, who had been on the forefront of targeting and prosecuting the Soutside Boyz.
What's the moral of this story? Just because a gang may seem unsophisticated and maybe it's just a pseudo-Sureño gang, don't ignore their potential for violence.
They may start slow on the gang learning curve but some of them will get tough just trying to survive. Jail and prison will further harden and train them. And they may just have an older real Sureño to make them into dangerous advisories.
Gang Graffiti (photos)
Latino Gang Tattoos (photos)